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The ups and downs of early-day industry
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A sputtering coal industry was launched in Pagosa Springs in June of 1894 by A.A. Putnam. Putnam opened a vein “fifteen feet in thickness” on Coal Creek. Coal has been hauled to town from Putnam’s mine intermittently since that time. Even Fred Harman is said to have put in his time driving the coal wagon pulled by horses.

During the same year forest fires destroyed “several hundred acres of valuable timber.” In July, J.M. Archuleta’s building on the main block of Pagosa Street burned, destroying his business house known as the Pagosa House. Archuleta rebuilt the building, but continued to suffer from fire. Three times within a year and one-half, his business building on Main Street burned.

T.B. Catron, the Santa Fe lawyer who headed the notorious “Santa Fe Ring” in New Mexico, conveyed 60,000 acres of land to the Banded Peak Land & Mining Company for the consideration of one dollar.

The land conveyed was, and is, at the head waters of the Navajo River and was the northern extremity of the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant.

Pages in the old land title books in the Archuleta County Courthouse are filled with land entries signed by Catron. At one time, the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant stretched from the Navajo River to a little south of Tierra Amarilla, N.M. And at one time, Catron is said to have owned more land than anyone else in the United States, mostly due to his ability to obtain title to land grants issued by the Mexican and Spanish governments before the United States took over New Mexico following the Mexican/American War.

In August the Pagosa Springs News announced, “E.T. Walker is now moving the old Bond mill on Navajo River to La Plata City.” A week later, six teams loaded with machinery from the gold stamp mill left Pagosa Springs for La Plata City. The stamp mill had been erected on the property deeded by Catron as mentioned earlier. The mill had been erected in response to a purported find of gold in the area. The existence of the gold proved to be more purported than real.

The following businesses advertised in the Pagosa Springs News, Dec. 21, 1894: J.H. Hallett, staple and fancy groceries, shelf hardware; J.V. Blake, groceries and miscellaneous; Frank E. Tyler, Mines and Mining, fully equipped assay office, Elwood, Colo. (yes, there really was an Elwood, post office and all, near Elwood Pass); Gene Gross, general house furnishings; Jno. M. Laughlin, manufacturer of fine cigars; Harpst Bros., watches and clocks; J.M. Archuleta Jr. drugs, patent medicines, the only complete stock of fishing tackle in town; R.A. Howe, surveyor; Jewett Palmer, livery, feed, and stable; E.M. Taylor, real estate and loans; Pagosa Springs Barber Shop, A.J. Lewis; Pagosa Springs Meat Market; Frank Spickard, Lawyer; W.M. Parrish, Physician and Druggist; Barzillai Price, Attorney at Law.